Focal Impaired Awareness Seizures (also known as Complex Partial Seizures)

What Is A Focal Impaired Awareness Seizure?

A focal onset seizure begins in one side of the brain (also known as partial seizures). Focal seizures are the most common type of seizures in adults with epilepsy.

When the seizure begins in one side of the brain and the person has a change in their level of awareness during some or all of it, it is called a focal onset impaired awareness seizure (also now as a complex partial seizure). The word “onset” is optional. Some people may also call them temporal lobe seizures if they start in the temporal lobes of the brain. An even older term is “psychomotor seizure.”

How Can I Tell If Someone Is Having A Focal Impaired Awareness Seizure?

  • Some people can have seizures of this kind without realizing anything has happened.
  • The seizure can wipe out memories of events just before or after it.
  • Most people move their mouth, pick at the air or their clothing, or perform other involuntary purposeless actions (automatisms). Occasionally, people just freeze up, which is called a focal impaired awareness behavior arrest seizure.
  • Less often, people may repeat words or phrases, laugh, scream, or cry.

See Examples of Focal Impaired Awareness Seizures

Do you have an example of a Focal Impaired Awareness Seizure in LGS that you are willing to share? If so, please email

First aid:

Stay calm, loosen anything around the person’s neck, do not restrain them or put anything in their mouth, clear the area around them, and stay with them after the seizure stops. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, the person has another seizure, does not wake up, or has another medical condition.

Emergency Care:

A seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes (status epilepticus), or three seizures in a row without a clear recovery between them (seizure cluster), is a medical emergency. Administer at-home seizure rescue medication immediately and if the seizure does not resolve, call for emergency help.

The information here is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. Content provided is for informational purposes only. LGSF is not responsible for actions taken based on the information included on this webpage. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options.

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Updated February 10, 2022